If you don’t get what you need from your partner, you’re not alone. So many of us don’t know how, or feel comfortable asking for what we need — in a way that works. But if you tap into the most basic human experience, you really can create closeness.
We create closeness when we share our feelings and needs, in a way that pulls our partner close. It’s not sharing any needs though. It’s sharing our attachment needs that really create closeness.
Attachment needs are the things we all need, especially from our partner. Attachment needs are on a different level – a vulnerable level. And when we share our attachment needs, it moves our partner towards us. Attachment needs are some of our most basic human needs.
Here are 3 steps to help understand, share and create closeness in your relationship.
3 Steps to Create Closeness
Step 1- Pause
Take a breath and get in touch with the emotion that lets you know you need something. Are you lonely, scared, maybe sad or feeling insecure? Emotions let us know what’s really important. But sometimes they can be fast. Try to slow it down.
Example: I’ve asked my partner so many times to help more with the kids. And when I realize I’m about to do it again, I stop. I take some deep breaths and slow it down. I ask myself what I’m feeling — at a deeper level.
At first I feel angry, but then I notice that I feel alone. And a little bit overwhelmed and sad because the kids aren’t behaving the way I think they should. Maybe I’m not doing what I should be doing.
Step 2- Risk
When you feel this, what do you need? Be curious. Feelings are not right or wrong, they just are. And our feelings can be our most important ally in relationships.
If you can be curious and try not to judge too harshly, you can tap into those softer feelings. The ones we ALL have. The need to feel close. The need to feel important. And the need to feel valued, maybe even cheerished is huge. Then there’s the flip side. The fear that we’re not good enough. The fear that we’re flawed in some way. And that fear that we’re going to be abandoned… that’s a big one for us humans.
Example Continued: I notice that I feel alone and overwhelmed. And I realize that at a deeper level I’m afraid that the kids are misbehaving because maybe I’m not a good enough Mom. I become aware that what I really need is some comfort and reassurance. And my partner is the natural person to give this to me. But feeling and knowing this can feel scary or risky.
Step 3- Reach
Share your feelings and needs from a softer place, in a softer way. Words and tone matter. This can be hard, especially at first. But it’s so important to ask for what you need. And to ask in a way that (s)he can hear you and come closer.
Example Continued: I tell my partner “Honey, you know how I complain about you not helping with the kids more? Well I think what’s been going on is that I’m overwhelmed and have been feeling alone a lot, lately. Sometimes I question whether the kids keep misbehaving because I’m not doing my job good enough. It feels weird to say this but it’s true. Can you reassure me? Can you tell me that you’re here for me, for us? Will you give me a hug?”
If you do try this (and I so hope you do) your partner will probably be surprised. Especially if you’re not used to talking like this.
And most of us, aren’t used to talking like this!
Instead, we tend to complain and tell them what they should do. Or we say nothing and figure they should just know what we need. And this rarely works. It can sometimes create short term change. But more times than not it really hurts the relationship.
Complaining or Ignoring Rarely Works
Even though your partner may be surprised, sharing more of yourself can begin to shift things. It might even bring some romance and confidence back to your relationship!
And just to be clear, this is not “one and done”. It takes practice. Being emotionally close will make you and your relationship stronger, but it’s a process.
The research on this is very clear. Being emotionally close makes you, your relationship and your family ALL stronger.
It’s Not Always Easy
The truth is, relationships can almost always be improved. And sharing those more vulnerable parts of you can absolutely can create closeness. But that doesn’t mean everyone can make these changes on their own.
Sometimes people need help. That’s what I do for a living. But sometimes, people can make these changes on their own. And I so hope that if you’re struggling in your relationships, you give this a try. I do this with my own husband. I help clients do this with their spouses. And the personal and professional outcomes are more times than not — amazing!
I’m a Licensed Clinical Therapist in St. Louis County. My private practice focuses on relationships and how to make them better.
We really are happiest when we feel valued by the most important people in our life. And there are ways based in science to create, nurture and repair that love. For more info on the science behind my work, click here.
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